Remember when the 49ers were supposed to draft Mac Jones?
So much of that narrative from pundits and fans was a demonstration of ignorance as to what Kyle Shanahan likes. Yes, there was an infatuation with a "Kirk Cousins" type quarterback, but like most human beings, Shanahan demonstrated his growth.
The 49ers wanted Trey Lance all along.
If there is any doubt about that, allow me to be your reminder. In their pre-draft presser, Shanahan sounded out a lot of hints and teases as to who they were going to draft. The one comment everyone forgets and didn't really take seriously enough was when he said, "You want to find Drew Brees who can move like Lamar Jackson." At that point, it was either going to be Lance or Justin Fields. That much was clear to me. In fact, I leaned toward it being Fields because he was the more proven player.
To get a better understanding, as well as to remind us, as to why Lance was the perfect fit for the 49ers, I asked Ted Nguyen of The Athletic his thoughts.
"I liked Justin Fields better as a prospect," said Nguyen. "But I could see why Shanahan would go with Lance over Fields because Lance just ran a lot more play action concepts and it does take a bit of an adjustment to have to turn your back to the defense and then turn around and see if there's a coverage change or just get used to doing that. And not every quarterback can do that. Justin Fields did do some of that, but not nearly as much as Trey Lance did. Just some of the things he heard about Trey Lance, his work ethic, and how quickly he's able to learn things. That's how dedicated he is to the mental aspect of the game, those things all, I think, were very prominent in Kyle Shanahan's mind when looking at Trey Lance."
Fields might have been the sweeter talent, and maybe that is because he had more film and played in higher-stakes games, but the mental aspect of Lance's game is what hooked Shanahan. His physical traits are just another facet of his game that tipped the scales. This is the player that Shanahan said is a "Brees who can move like Jackson" type. Brees was never a physical freak, but what made him great was his intelligence.
Lance has that in his game, and in a complex offense like Shanahan's, there needs to be someone smart under center to optimize it. This is why Jimmy Garoppolo struggles once his first read is taken away. He just doesn't know where to go. Instead, he turns into "tap dancing Jimmy" with his awkward footwork when the play breaks down. Outside of the quick pass outlet plays, Garoppolo limits the 49ers. This is also a strength of Lance, which is something Nguyen is a fan of.
"You know one of my favorite traits about Trey Lance is just his ability in the quick game. He's so quick with being able to snap his lower body into his target and quickly get rid of the ball, and as we know there's a lot of quick game and quick reads in Kyle Shanahan's offense, that anticipation ability to roll with the timing is important and Trey Lance showed those things on his film."
Lance still has an uphill climb before he can dethrone Garoppolo. Luckily for him, he has some time to settle into the playbook before training camp arrives.